An arguably underrated storyline during this 2020 Dallas Cowboys season has been the absence of starting Cornerback Chidobe Awuzie. Finally set to return this week, Awuzie has just seven games left in this final year of his rookie contract. What could the remainder of 2020 mean for Chido's future with the Cowboys?
Many players have no doubts about their future when they enter that fourth and final season of the rookie deal. In fact, some even get their second contract before the first one expires. Awuzie's fellow starter, rookie Trevon Diggs, is someone that we already expect to be a longtime Cowboy even with just a few games under his belt so far.
Unfortunately for Chido, he and the rest of the Cowboys' 2017 draft class have never solidified their roles with the team. We know how quickly Taco Charlton flamed out and now there are still big question marks around Jourdan Lewis, Xavier Woods, and Noah Brown from that same group. Like Awuzie, none of these surviving 2017 draftees are sure things for second contracts.
As the 2nd-round pick Chido has faced the biggest expectations of everyone but Taco. And while he has started in 38 of his 43 career games, Awuzie's breakdowns in coverage have overshadowed his occasional highlights.
Some of Chido's struggle has been having a Pro Bowl cornerback on the other side of the field in recent years. Teams preferred throwing in Awuzie's direction over Byron Jones, and for good reason, which created more opportunities for Chido to look bad.
But again, it hasn't all been bad. Awuzie's had one interception every season, including one this year against the Rams, along with 34 pass deflections. He's proven to be a willing tackler and has even been considered as a potential safety convert at times.
We don't know what the Cowboys feelings and intentions are about Chido currently or where things stood going into the season. Maybe they've already planned to move on or are already resolved to re-sign him; nothing has been declared to this point.
You could infer from the 2020 Draft that Dallas was looking to clean house at cornerback after drafting Diggs and Reggie Robinson. But you need at least three good corners to contend in the NFL, so perhaps Diggs and Robinson were brought in to join Awuzie rather than replace him.
That's why I think these final seven games of 2020 (and yes, perhaps a playoff game or two) are vital for Chido's future with the Cowboys. I can't say he's done enough to clearly earn a second contract but also don't think it's anywhere close to being off the table.
In a way, Awuzie may present Dallas with an opportunity to secure an asset at bargain price. With the missed games in 2020 and his lack of consistency in previous seasons, Chido probably wouldn't be a big name in the upcoming free agent market. The Cowboys may be able to lock him up to a bargain deal for at least the next two or three years.
Even if it's just one-year “prove it” deal for 2021, that would give Dallas at least a pair of starting corners in Awuzie and Diggs that they can lean on. You would also hope that Robinson would be ready for more responsibility in his second season.
Additionally, with the safety position still in flux, keeping Chido around gives you a versatile player who may be able to help anywhere in the secondary.
Of course, this greatly depends on how Awuzie performs over the remainder of the season. If he's a huge liability then the new coaching staff will probably let him walk along with many others from the previous regime's players.
But with Trevon Diggs now injured for most if not all of the year, Chidobe Awuzie is getting his first real shot as the Cowboys' number-one cornerback. Where his NFL career goes from here could swing heavily on just this handful of remaining games.